"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, November 02, 2018

Non-Economic Factors in the Economic Retardation of the Rural Malays (3/4)

"In the nineteenth century, the rural Malays were always loath to accumulate too much wealth because it invited confiscation by either the Sultan or the local chiefs. In any event, it appears that the Malays were powerless to prevent the Sultan or the local chiefs from taking their cattle and rice without payment, or even their wives and daughters! If we add to this the not infrequent internecine wars and local feuds in which the villagers became involved, and also their low levels of income, then the Malays' desire for some sort of material security becomes quite understandable and merely reinforces any more general psychological yearning for security.

Inherent in the Malays, therefore, is a desire for security, something which is based on the desire for feeling in harmony with their environment, for being able to understand it and for being able to respond intuitively to a given situation. These needs are not likely to lead the Malays into being experimental in their attitude towards material techniques because any deviation from that which obtains, or that which is expected, necessarily makes them feel more insecure and more anxious, and hence they remain unimpressed by the opportunities offered by change. Indeed, the desire for security may go a long way towards explaining the attraction that government employment has for the Malays, for such employment is regarded as being very secure even if less remunerative than other paid employment. And it may also help to explain the Malays' dislike for full-time specialization in any one occupation. The insecurity they apparently feel by specialization is something that can only be overcome by having more than one occupation.

Within the framework of E. E. Hagen's more general thesis, the anxiety caused by being faced with new situations is 'avoided or relieved by two types of behaviour characteristic. .... One is the reliance on tradition. . . . Only within [traditional areas of behaviour] does one face problems without anxiety. .... The other method of avoiding anxiety is decision by authority...

Every Muslim is essentially a propagandist of his faith, and, being a Muslim, the Malay will mix freely with non-Muslims and be kind and hospitable to them. Despite this, however, there is a gulf between the Muslim and the non-Muslim which tends to make the Malay seem rather withdrawn, almost chauvinistic, less likely to submit his beliefs to, or accept, those of others, and to be satisfied with looking to his friends, his religion, his techniques and his institutions as the bases for any advancement or inspiration.

The Islamic belief that all things are emanations from God is another important force affecting the Malays' economic behaviour, for it tends to make them fatalistic in their approach to life. 'The Malay is very prone, after receiving a setback, to give up striving, and say that he has no luck, that it is the will of God. In economic affairs, this is most clearly seen in the concept rezeki, a person's divinely inspired economic lot.' Such an attitude constitutes a significant drag on economic development...

Indeed, this view is but part of their belief in the advent of a Messiah, the Islamic mahdi...

Islamic Messianism may well have had a profound effect on the Malays' economic ambition and aspiration. To the persons who believe in the likelihood of the coming of a 'golden age', into they would be led and in which all problems would be solved, the tendency to sit and wait passively for change to occur rather than to become active vehicles of change. In short, there is a tendency to adopt an attitude of resignation rather than of innovation. And it must be remembered that the golden age for which the Malays yearn and which they expect is essentially an extension (albeit a perfect one) of their existing way of life. It does not seem to envisage a change in their pursuits, their customs, their religion or their ambitions, but merely the removal of all imperfections and evils. In other words, it does not seem to envisage a commercial or industrial community with all the trappings of material wealth, and any economic changes that merely promise to lead towards this end are therefore not accepted with quite the same exuberance as they might be in the West."

--- Non-Economic Factors in the Economic Retardation of the Rural Malays / Brien K. Parkinson (in Modern Asian Studies, 1967)
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